After over a year of restrictions, travel is picking up again. While in 2020 only 37% of Americans planned a summer vacation, this year 72% of them are. This is definitely good news for the travel industry, but the rules have changed. Marketers need to capitalize on emerging travel trends and shifting consumer expectations to win travelers’ hearts and dollars.
Lockdown dreaming and one-click convenience
People couldn’t easily travel during the pandemic, but this doesn’t mean they weren’t dreaming about it and interacting with travel content online. As of April this year, 70% of Americans are in a “ready-to-travel” state of mind and two-thirds are highly open to travel inspiration and ready to book trips at a moment’s notice. Since ecommerce blossomed in sales and functionality alike, consumers got used to speed, flexibility, and convenience. Their desired products were suddenly a click away, while fast delivery and easy returns became the norm for many retailers. It’s quite likely that this level of service will be expected in travel, too, so travel brands need to provide not only inspiring ads but a seamless experience from booking to getting back home.
A new wave of innovation
The pandemic accelerated innovation across industries and travel was no exception. The need for social distancing helped speed up administration tasks such as check-in, food ordering, invoice retrieval, and refund processing. In 2021, we expect contactless check-in and the use of smartphones throughout the travel experience to become the norm, with new and faster integrations making everything as smooth as possible.
Nothing’s set in stone
In the past, people would plan their holidays a long time in advance, but the current climate makes that difficult. Travelers don’t know exactly when and where they can travel to. While for some that means they’d rather stay home, for many of them, last-minute flexible bookings are the way to go. Seven in 10 travelers say they will look for flexibility in the next 12 months in the form of travel insurance and trip protection, full cancelations, and refunds on transportation and accommodations. Major travel companies from airlines to hotels and OTAs have already changed their policies to allow more flexibility in changing and canceling bookings. In September 2020, American Airlines, Delta, and United took the major step of permanently eliminating change fees.
The high levels of uncertainty people experienced during the pandemic mean they are now increasingly seeking out trusted brands to help them navigate the complexities of travel. According to an Expedia study, 25% more travelers now use online travel agencies and 20% more of them browse destination websites to find information about their trips. Throughout 2021, we expect advice from trusted providers to be a major competitive advantage, with travelers choosing those that give them on-demand access to reliable information on health and security measures, especially through digital channels. User reviews are also key in building that trust, so travel marketers should find ways to include those reviews in their campaigns.
Travel is back on the agenda. The success of your campaigns depends on your flexibility and digitalization now more than ever. That’s where we can help! To read more about travel marketing in 2021 and learn more about how we can help, check out this guide: